Socialist Worker

How real is the Lib Dem surge?

Issue No. 1950a

The Liberal Democrats became the focus for many people who are angry with New Labour. That’s not surprising. They were constantly described by the media as being against the war in Iraq.

But their advance is very limited. The Lib Dems took around six million votes. That is the same as they received in 1992 — and almost two million fewer than they got in 1983.

The Lib Dems knew that there were millions of votes to the left of Labour. So some of their propaganda made a pitch towards those people.

But at the same time there are strong forces inside the party who believe that, when Labour is led by Gordon Brown, the Lib Dems should become the inheritors of economic Blairism.

Last year a group of prominent Lib Dems produced a new book — The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism.

In classic New Labour language it called for “choice and private sector innovation in public services”.

The book was welcomed by leader Charles Kennedy.

The Lib Dem treasury spokesperson, David Laws, who coedited the book, said it was time to take on the “nanny state”, to “toughen up” the party’s policies on crime and to emphasise its support for the market and private sector involvement in public services.

This is, after all, the party that wants strikes banned in large parts of the public sector and even more privatisation than New Labour proposes.

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Sat 7 May 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1950a
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